Monday 13 August 2018


                PART ONE – A CRUCIAN CONUNDRUM            
a glorious bar of beaten gold

Rain at last after the most glorious summer we have had since records began – almost … but now it’s cooler our river water temperatures will drop and I can safely go barbel fishing again. Until then I’ll take advantage of the inclement weather, escape the need to graft in the garden and write about some angling adventures with friends, starting with the first day of the season.

I love the ‘Glorious 16th’ because of the anticipation that this special day creates and it will be a sad day if it’s ever done away with … but I’ll not bang on about the whys and wherefores here. Suffice to say the decision of where to start fishing and what for is an annual dilemma but a delicious one because all the choices are so appealing. River or Lake? Barbel, tench, carp or crucians?
lovely isn't it - well over two pounds

a perfect place to start the season
Agonising no more, I did what I usually do and joined my pal Chris Wild on a beautiful, peaceful lake in deepest Wiltshire, intent on a crucian or two.

Arriving the afternoon before the big day, I walked round before choosing my spot, put a little pellet powder in the edge and settled down to wait with a cuppa … but hardly had the tea filtered down before two crucians appeared from the lilies on the right and hovered over the groundbait.

waiting in my swim with intense anticipation
feasting on the little green pellets

More joined them from the left and before long seven big crucians were hovering up the freebies at my feet. What made this scene even more delightful was that I could not fish for them and had to simply enjoy watching their antics and all the other wildlife around the lake. It sure beat fishing hands down.
rolling in the shallow swim just adds to the delight

the final sunset before the great day
Dusk eventually arrived so I retreated to my camper van and enjoyed a celebratory glass of wine. I was doing just the same a few years back with Mr.Yates and after our second glass of merlot, a barn owl floated past the open door – perfect!

Dawn broke early this year but I was already sitting by my swim, waiting to cast until I could see my float. Bubbles of feeding tench and crucians rose to the surface and so did my anticipation. Is there any more delightful way to start the season then this?

Tackle was as simple as it comes, the first two sections of a Drennan margin pole with medium elastic and line straight through to a strongish barbless 14 hook. I’d virtually be freelining in the grass at the waters edge, but added a tiny section of the broken tip of a waggler as a tell-tale and shotted with two small tungsten sinkers, the lowest being just an inch or so from the hook as an essential tell-tale.
just an inch of float top provides a super sensitive rig for those tiny bites

If the crucians as much as breathed I’d know about it. I’d developed this set up the previous opening two days and caught sixteen crucians averaging two pounds under my feet so I knew it was sensitive enough to fool those cunning bars of gold.

On this cool opening day it took a while for the water to warm up and the crucians to move into the shallow edges but when they did the fishing was exciting. Soft pellets were taken enthusiastically by the crucians but just as quickly spat out, though eventually a few held on long enough for me to enjoy a rewarding day. A small pinch of flake fooled them too as I could clearly see when they sucked it in. 

 Chris with an old warrior of two pounds
Chris eventually caught several on the other side of the big bed of lilies, having been driven mad by the crucians’ notorious, tentative bites. Helping him by supplying a tiny bit of old float did the trick and this reminded us of just how much more enjoyable a days fishing is when shared with a good friend, especially when every missed bite … and there were lots of them incite ridicule. 

an old warrior with an old crucian
We both caught a few, all around two pounds but failed to tempt a tench, so it was more or less honours even between hunter and hunted.

aren't they cracking fish to start the season
Bantering and laughing our way through the day made for a grand way to start the season and I had more to look forward to the following week, an invite from friend and work-mate Martin Bowler to visit the River Wye. No peace for the wicked but someone has to do it.
casting into dreamland


There can be few places so beautiful to fish as the sylvan pools of the River Wye and to be here with Martin for a good catch up and trip down memory lane was about as good as it gets.

We had spent four and a half years working together on our Channel 4 series, “Catching the Impossible” and in spite of all the pressures of trying to catch some of the biggest fish in Britain, we have remained the best of friends ever since.

44lbs 4ozs of pristine common carp
I still find it difficult to believe how big most of them were and how impossible some of them would be now. However, with Martin not only being one of the finest anglers this country has ever seen and so hard working it makes me tired just thinking about it, anything is possible. ‘The harder I work the luckier I get’ comes to mind!

unbelievable Gt.Ouse perch of 5lb4ozs
the final curtain - a pike of over thirty pounds from an estate lake. Job done!
However, on this occasion it was to be me under pressure to succeed because contrary to my belief, the purpose of this trip was not to sit by the water and chill but to catch barbel so that Martin could create a feature for the Angling Times. However, the sun shone and the barbel were biting big time, so it all came together nicely.

they pull a bit
Using a method feeder with hair-rigged 10mm trout pellets did the trick but I surprised Martin with a rig I had devised that he had never thought of …which is a miracle in it’s own right.

the fiendish HM rig
Keen to use thinner line than I should in the crystal clear water of the Hants Avon and reduce the risk of breakages from the big barbel, I wanted to use a hair-rig but without the extra knots in the line. Threading the eyed hook up the main line first, then tying the small loop for the hair, it is then a simple job to tie a spade-end knot and thread the hair through the loop. Judging the hair length comes with a bit of practice and voila, I had a barbel rig with just one knot. I found it a simple task and as Martin said, much easier to tie than to describe!

happy with yet another beauty
Casting in, the rod wrenched round first chuck and feeding a handful of pellets after every fish, I totalled fifteen barbel to 9/3 and a raft of chub. So it was mission accomplished and Martin had his Angling Times feature in the can.

Sharing fish and chips, washed down with wine rounded the day off nicely and having put the angling world to rights, we slept well under a full moon, serenaded by a family of tawny owls in the trees above.

friends with beauty in their arms
It proved to be a memorable trip and far more relaxing than my next adventure, out on the estuary for a dose of mullet madness.
The series has gone down a storm and can still be bought from Martin Bowler's on-line shop -

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